The regular signing period for Division I football recruits began Wednesday, but the University of Utah did not make any significant moves.
That doesn’t come as a surprise given the Utes inked 18 recruits at the start of the early signing period in December, then hit the NCAA Transfer Portal for four players at positions of need, two at quarterback and two more at running back.
If spring practice occurs, the four transfers, quarterbacks Charlie Brewer (Baylor) and Ja’Quinden Jackson (Texas), and running backs T.J. Pledger (Oklahoma) and Chris Curry (LSU), will all participate, but beyond that, there is some question as to whether or not they will be eligible to play this fall.
As a graduate transfer, Brewer is immediately eligible under NCAA transfer guidelines. As underclassmen, Jackson (true freshman eligibility in 2021), Pledger (true junior) and Curry (redshirt sophomore) are not.
To that point, the NCAA Division I Council on Jan. 11 tabled legislation that would have allowed for a one-time transfer for student-athletes in baseball, basketball, football and men’s ice hockey. In layman’s terms, the legislation would allow student-athletes in those five sports to transfer one time without the usual penalty of taking a redshirt before being eligible. There are transfer exemption waivers in some cases in some sports, but those are never a certainty for incoming transfers.
Three days after the Division I Council tabled the matter, the Division I Board of Directors followed suit, and here we are.
“We’re hearing it will absolutely go through, it’s just a matter of when,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham told The Salt Lake Tribune. “Anything’s possible, but we’re assuming it’s going to pass.”
“I’m frustrated because I believe transferring for students in those five sports without sitting a year should be allowed,” Utah athletic director Mark Harlan told The Tribune, while also voicing his displeasure at the fact that legislation regarding name, image and likeness (NIL) was also tabled on Jan. 11.
Harlan was frustrated, but also came off as optimistic that something could still get done, it just may take longer than everyone wanted after the Division I Council introduced the proposal in October.
Whittingham’s assertion that the one-time transfer policy will get done is not unreasonable, mostly because time remains on his side.
Had the Division I Council voted the transfer legislation through, the Division I Board of Directors surely would have rubber-stamped it. In that case, the new rule would have taken effect Aug. 1, 27 days before the first week of games on the FBS schedule, and 32 days before Utah is scheduled to open its season vs. Weber State at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Multiple Pac-12 sources have echoed Whittingham in recent weeks, that the net result is expected to be that the one-time transfer is not only enacted, but enacted in time for the 2021 season, in which case Jackson, Pledger, and Curry are eligible.
Maybe that happens, maybe not, but for now, all Utah can do is wait and see.
Utah’s 2021 recruiting class ranked 32nd nationally, fifth in the Pac-12
One indication that Utah wasn’t going to be active Wednesday at the start of the regular signing period came Tuesday evening when the Utes announced the four Power Five transfers as part of their 2021 recruiting class.
Brewer, Jackson, Pledger and Curry give Utah 21 newcomers, with the other 17 being high school recruits signed at the start of the early signing period back in December.
“We did all our signings the first go-around, so right now, we’re just operating business as usual,” Whittingham said Wednesday morning on SiriusXM Pac-12 Radio. “Guys are in the weight room, we’re meeting and all that type of stuff, which is way different than in years past because almost every single year at this point, there’s been a lot going on on this particular day.”
One noticeable omission to Utah’s announcement Tuesday night was three-star athlete Velltray Jefferson, who signed in December, but has reportedly asked for a release from his National Letter of Intent. Utah is expected to grant Jefferson’s request.
In December, Utah’s 18-man class was its highest-rated recruiting class ever, ranked 29th nationally and fourth in the Pac-12 with an average rating of .8738, according to 247sports.
As of Wednesday, the average ranking had risen to .8742, though the class is now ranked 32nd nationally and fifth in the Pac-12.
Of the 21 newcomers, Curry, Pledger and Jackson were four-star recruits coming out of high school, while December signees Ethan Calvert (linebacker), Peter Costelli (quarterback), Ricky Parks (running back) and Mason Tufaga (linebacker) also hold that designation.
Parks, who committed to Utah in June as a three-star, was bumped up to four-star status just last week.
UTAH’S 2021 RECRUITING CLASS
Cole Bishop, 6-3, 200, LB; from Fayetteville, Ga. (Starr’s Mill High School)
Ethan Calvert, 6-3, 230, LB; from Westlake Village, Calif. (Oaks Christian School)
Makai Cope, 6-2, 190, WR; from Culver City, Calif. (Culver City HS)
Peter Costelli, 6-3, 205, QB; from Mission Viejo, Calif. (Mission Viejo HS)
Jonah Elliss, 6-2, 210, LB; Moscow, Idaho (Moscow Senior HS)
Koli Faalu, 6-4, 315, OG; from Bothell, Wash. (North Creek HS)
Jonny Fanaika, 6-3, 245, DE; from Pleasant Grove (Pleasant Grove HS)
David Fotu, 6-4, 299, DT; from Ephraim (Snow College)
Elisha Lloyd, 5-10, 175, CB; from San Marcos, Calif. (Mission Hills HS)
Ricky Parks, 5-10, 192, RB; from Tampa (Gaither HS)
Simote Pepa, 6-3, 320, DL; from South Jordan (Bingham HS)
Viliami Pouha, 6-2, 230, DE; from South Jordan (Bingham HS)
Trey Reynolds, 6-2, 235, LB; from Queen Creek, Ariz. (Queen Creek HS)
Darrien Stewart, 6-2, 190, S; from Las Vegas (Desert Pines HS)
Mason Tafuga, 6-1, 210, LB; from Honolulu (Saint Louis School)
Isaac Vaha, 6-7, 230, TE; from Pleasant Grove (Pleasant Grove HS)
Zereoue Williams, 6-8, 248, OT; from Phoenix (Mountain Pointe HS)